Hawaii's beautiful landscape is home to many unusual species, including carnivorous caterpillars, the largest dragonfly in the U.S. and the exotic silversword plant, which can take decades to bloom. In fact, much of the state's native flora and fauna cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Teeming with brightly colored, fragrant flowers, it's no wonder Hawaii is known for its tradition of making leis. Popular flowers used to make these decorative garlands include hibiscus, gardenia, pikake (jasmine), plumeria and orchids.
With its woodpeckers, owls, honeycreepers, songbirds and a diverse population of seabirds, Hawaii is a great place for bird-watching. Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to check out the state bird -- the Hawaiian goose, or nene.
Some of the best scuba diving in the world can be found in the clear, warm waters of the Hawaiian islands. Divers might encounter sharks, dolphins or sea turtles. Three types of sea turtle are native to Hawaii -- green, hawksbill and leatherback. Green sea turtles, called honu, are most commonly sighted by snorkelers and divers. The coral reefs here are home to roughly 450 species of reef fish, almost a third of which are unique to Hawaii.
Another distinctive Hawaiian creature is the monk seal, or Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, which means "dog that runs in rough waters." Recently named the state mammal, these seals can weigh up to 600 pounds and have been around for millions of years.
Hawaii is a breeding ground for the North Pacific humpback whale. Every winter, from November to May, humpback whales migrate from their feeding grounds in Alaska to breed in the warmer waters off the coast of Hawaii. Maui is a top whale-watching spot from the sea, but day cruises are available from most ports on the islands of Hawaii, or you might even spot whales from the shore.
From the lush greenery on land to the abundant life at sea, one thing is certain: The Aloha State is a nature lover's paradise.